Emergency feeding needed for sheep in snow

Welsh sheep farmers are being urged to provide emergency supplementation to ewes during heavy snowfall.

Forecasters are predicting up to 25cm of snow on Welsh hills this weekend, coupled with blizzard conditions, meaning that both sheep farmers and flocks could be in for a challenging time.

Dewi Hughes from Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales said prolonged periods of sub-zero temperatures would cause concern for Welsh producers and appropriate rationing was essential.

“A correctly managed maintenance diet is all that’s needed to help keep sheep in good condition during periods of heavy snowfall,” said Mr Hughes. “A 55kg ewe will need about 8-9 MJ/day accounting for a bit extra for the cold weather. This amounts to one small bale for every 30 ewes a day, which works out at 0.6kg a head a day.”

If hills are covered in deep snow or sheep are on improved pastures with no forage available, producers should start feeding restricted amounts of hay on the ground – an amount equivalent to what they can clear up in an hour or two.

“This, together with what the ewes will graze, provides adequate maintenance,” said Mr Hughes. “But if you can only use low-quality hay or straw, ewes will also need access to feed blocks for protein and minerals.”

Alternatively, ewes could be fed a small amount of concentrate. For example, 0.2 kg a day with a metabolic energy (ME) of 12.5 and crude protein (CP) percentage of 16%. Farmers should ideally use a snacker on areas where the snow has been blown off.

“If feeding blocks, use the softer type where intake will be about 200g a day. Blocks should be 22% CP and 12.5 ME, allow one block per 30 ewes initially and expect usage to be between five and six blocks for 100 ewes per week.

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Further detailed information for farmers, including technical booklets on feeding ewes, can be found on the HCC website

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